Big Plays On Special Teams Propels Penn Over Yale

PHILADELPHIA, October 22, 2011 – The University of Pennsylvania extended its Ivy League winning streak to 18 games coming back from a 10 point fourth quarter deficit to earn a 37 – 25 win over the Yale Bulldogs at Franklin Field.  When you have an 18 game winning streak there will be games when plays have to go in your direction.  No plays were bigger for the Quakers than two special teams plays that gave them, the lead then later breathing room.
Connor Loftus

In the 4th quarter Penn scored a touchdown, but missed the extra point cutting the Yale lead to 20 – 16.  Penn Freshman Kicker Connor Loftus approached the ball lifting the ball high but short.  The Yale receiving team had difficulty finding the ball allowing Penn to recover the on-side kick at the Yale 30 yard line.  Three plays later Junior Quarterback Billy Ragone scampered 11 yards for a touchdown giving Penn a 23 – 20 lead with 11:42 remaining to play.  Later in the fourth quarter Penn lead 30 – 23.  Loftus lifted another high, short kick that was fielded by Yale, but return man Deon Randall fumbled the ball.  Penn Sophomore Linebacker Joey Grosso recovered the ball at the Yale 34 yard line.  Like the other recovery it took Penn three plays to score as Junior Running Back Brandon Colavita ran around left end from 25 yards away putting Penn in front 37 – 23 at the 5:13 mark.  Penn Coach Al Bagnoli thought those were the perfect times to attempt the on-sides kick.

“I think the first time we went to the pooch kick, they had bigger kids there, and we were doing a great job on kick return returns,” Penn Coach Al Bagnoli about getting the breaks on the special teams plays.  “We were trying to make the bigger kids run around for the ball and not let them get set.  The first one Connor Loftus hit it perfect.  The ball bounced around and we were fortunate to get it.  That was a huge play, got us momentum, and got us a little more emotional.  The second one they didn’t handle it right, fumbled it, and we got it.”

Once Penn took the lead, Yale came back to tie the game on a 35 yard field goal.  On the ensuing drive Penn scored a touchdown on a 20 yard touchdown pass from Ragone to Senior Wide Receiver Ryan Calvert.  The score capped a 5 play, 80 yard drive taking 2:28.  Penn recovered the fumble off the short kick on that kickoff.

It was the third straight Ivy League win for Penn as they came from behind in the fourth quarter to win the game.  This was not the last possession, but it required resiliency on the part of the Penn team.  The Red and Blue scored in the last minutes to win road games against Dartmouth and Columbia.  Penn has shown this characteristic during their Ivy schedule as the Quakers are 3 – 0 in conference.

Billy Ragone

“It speaks a lot about our team, and that we are never going to give up in a game.,” Ragone said.  “Early in the game we were moving the ball and doing what we wanted to do offensively, but we weren’t punching it in.  We just had to keep doing what we were doing and made a lot of big plays in the second half.  That made a difference.”

Ragone completed 17 of 24 passes for 236 yards and threw 3 touchdown passes to Calvert, Senior Tight End Luke Nawrocki, and Senior Wide Receiver Joe Holder.  Ragone also ran for 94 yards and had a touchdown on the ground.  Colavita ran for 156 yards and one touchdown.  The Red and Blue totaled 528 yards of offense, 277 rushing and 251 passing.

Yale came into the game undefeated in Ivy League play, and had a good day on offense with 466 total yards.  Running Back Alex Thomas ran for 205 yards, the first time …… Thomas scored a touchdown.  He left the game with a lower leg injury in the fourth quarter as Yale was driving for a proximity touchdown.  The Quakers turned the Bulldogs away to take the ball with 3:35 on the clock.  Quarterback Patrick Witt was 14 – 28 for 242 yards and 2 touchdown passes.  Both scoring passes of 12 and 60 yards went to Wide Receiver Chris Smith who totalled 148 receiving yards.  Smit left the game with an injury late in the third quarter.  Yale made 5 of 13 Third-Down Conversions.  The Bulldogs moved the ball, but the Penn defense stiffened when necessary.

“Playing a team with this quarterback and his potent offense, we expected them to get a couple of yards,” said Penn Senior Linebacker Eric Rask.  “Obviously, that’s not the goal coming in, but when that happens you have to rebound and comeback the next play and shake it off.  I think we were allowing too many big plays.  The good thing about that was not a lot of them were turning into points.”

Al Bagnoli

The win was Ivy League win number 100 for Penn Coach Al Bagnoli who is not one to acknowledge individual milestones.

“It’s a number,” Bagnoli said.  “At some point it will mean something, but not right now.  What it really means is that you haven’t been fired in a long time.”

The Red and Blue travel to Providence to meet the Brown Bears in their next game.


Written By:  Glenn Papazian

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